And it’s old and old it’s sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms.
—James Joyce, from Finnegan’s Wake
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
—Stephanie Grant, Guest Editor
The sentence starts as a chanting rhythm, with the words old; it adds “sad” then “weary;” then cold to father; then builds on cold, adding mad and feary. The rhymes give it a rocking motion, like a child in a father’s arms, “old/cold,” “sad/mad,” “near sight”/ “mere size,” “seasilt/ saltsick,” “moyles and moyles.” The terrible labour of Finnegan’s wake is startling: Eighteen years of Joyce’s life and then he died. Was it worth it? He seems intent on pushing readers away with this book, a messy mucky field, and then we come to the last few utterly fluid pages. The river’s voice as she runs into her father sea and is subsumed. I think of course of Lucia, his wild dancer daughter, who, like so many women of those days, was declared mad and locked away. He was thinking of her too when he wrote this. This was their language. The last few pages always break my heart.
—Emer Martin, author of Breakfast In Babylon, More Bread Or I'll Appear>, Baby Zero